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Defending Clerical Marriage – Katharina Schütz Zell (1524)

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Such are the faults of those who oppose the marriage of priests. Part of them consists of those who possess benefices and other things. Another part consists of their friends, fathers, mothers, siblings, aunts, and cousins. They, too, fear that if the priests can have wives and [legitimate] children, it will deprive them of their inheritance and other things. A third part are those who are actually involved in whoredom, for they fear that eventually they, too, will be at risk. Thus, in the end Sodom and Gomorra will be swallowed up in sulfur and brimstone that rains down from Heaven. Oh God, put an end to it! How long must the soul of the just Lot be tortured? And save the just Lot, as You have promised through Your angel, for You have thus set an example of how the godless shall fare in the future. For while the just man lives justly among such folk, he must daily suffer their tortures. But You know how to deliver the just from temptation and to preserve the unrighteous for their punishment on the Last Day.

There is a lot more, but I won't relate it here, for persons more learned than I have written enough about it. Among the matters is the service of the saints, of which I would write a bit. As St. Paul says to us in Hebrews 11-13, the saints should remember, etc.

Should anyone say to me now that this is an ineptly long speech, which has brought you far from your starting point, my answer is to acknowledge this. It is true, but perhaps it has happened of necessity. If you mean that this matter is none of my business [I reply that] I have seen how many souls have been taken, and are still being taken, by the Devil. This is also a reason why I have helped the priests to establish [clerical] marriage. And the very first one here at Strasbourg occurred with God's help, for I had made up my mind not to marry. But then I witnessed the great fear, the raging opposition, and the great lewdness. When I nevertheless took a husband, I meant to give heart to and show the way to all Christians, as I hope to have done. Therefore, I also wrote a little book, in which are displayed the grounds of my faith and the reason for my marriage. Which surprised not a few people, for no one had a clue in word or deed that I intended to marry, for which reason I had the idea that I needed to offer my reasons, so far as I have learned and knowing nothing to the contrary, also moved by my husband, namely, that he entered this marriage for the honor of God and the salvation of himself and all men. I find no trace of dishonorable desire or other such feelings in him. And I have been granted neither great wealth nor other gifts that might have motivated him.

His action, plus his teaching and his way of life, have brought him such envy from the godless, that his health and life are not worth more than those of the birds in the air and the worms in the earth, much less those of men. And, to return to my original aim of justifying my husband, I must say that such envy is so deeply rooted in the hearts of the godless, that if they could injure him in body, soul, or life, they have done so, and they have invented such devilish great lies about him and spread them through every land.

First, they say that I have abandoned him. That requires no answer. The liars themselves are shamed, for I have never spent a day outside of Strasbourg.

Second, they say that he hanged himself in sorrow for marrying me. This merits the mere reply that perhaps he has been transformed into a younger man of contrary mind. Yes, they would give half their wealth, were it true.

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